During July my son and I took a road trip through most of the western US. One of the highlights of the trip was visiting Benavente Guitars in Grants Pass, Oregon.
According to his bio Chris Benavente in his younger years, was a self-proclaimed trouble maker. In contrast, the man that I met was a master bass maker. It didn’t take long to realize that this is someone with a passion for what he does and is someone that possesses an uncanny ability to do it very well.
Like many small luthiers, Chris’ shop is in the garage in the back of his house. But it doesn’t take too long to see that this a going concern. While we were there we saw a CNC machine carving guitar pieces. This is a high tech shop.
A door beside the garage leads to the Benavente showroom. The room is like a small music shop with a few dozen guitars on the walls and several amps stacked up on the floor.
Most of the guitars on the wall are Benavente’s but a few are Fenders. The Fenders and Benavente’s are mixed together and the only way to see which is which is by looking at the names on the headstock. But after a few minutes you can see that the Benaventes are the ones that look like custom shop, hand made guitars. Several have exotic woods and one is even painted a high gloss mint green to match Chris’s Ford Mustang outside in the driveway.
Of course I’m here not to see guitars but to see basses. And I was partially disappointed. There was only one completed bass in the shop. The rest were in various stages of completion. The ones that were there were some of the finest bits of luthiery I’ve had the privilege of holding in my hands. My only regret was not getting to play the finished product.
This was my first exposure to buckeye burl. When I’d seen these finishes in photos before I thought it was some kind of painted finish.
This is, in fact, the actual wood finish. It has the most beautiful grain in browns, grays, bronzes and blacks.
I like a lot of things about these basses. Nice woods, neck through construction, choice of modern or tradition style instruments and a definite focus on building basses. (Basses are not just an after thought here).
Chris says that a lot of his instruments are sold to Japan and he doesn’t typically keep much inventory. His low end prices are around $1600, but quickly get up into the $3000-$4000 range. Especially when you get into some of the exotic woods that are hard to come by.
These prices seem quite reasonable to me for an instrument of this calibre. Would love to have one.
As to how they play? How they sound? Well I can’t say with playing them. But stay tuned while I review the one bass he did have in stock.
Thanks to Chris Benavente and Brian Barrett for showing me some cool instruments and for hanging out to talk about basses on a sunny afternoon. What could be better? All we needed was beer. And special thanks to John Gibson for setting up the get together. Hope to see all you guys again soon.